Recent scholarly and political debates revolve around the claim that the world of labour is close to a tipping point, at which work will cease to function both as the economic foundation of capitalist accumulation and as the condition of possibility for livelihood and meaning. Speculations about the outcome of this radical transformation abound. Some evoke dystopias of endlessly produced surplus populations, excesses of a world where automation, artificial intelligence, and digitalization make human work irrelevant while labour power remains commodified. Driven by accelerationist hopes, others predict that in the chase for ad infinitum self-reproduceable objects, profits will become impossible, thus driving capitalism to self-cannibalize. Meanwhile, calls from leftist corners emphasize the historical potential of this turning point for the articulation of a post-capitalist imaginary.

This symposium aims to move beyond the predominantly speculative and hypothetical nature of these conversations by placing in dialogue forward-looking but empirically-grounded insights into the concrete processes that are unfolding in the present, and could lead to the materialization of particular futures of work and the foreclosure of others. It brings together four scholars whose work has contributed to debates on laboured changes, in the dual sense of anticipated changes to structures and experiences of labour and the work of bringing about such changes. They will discuss recent transformations in Chinese labour regimes, refugees and surplus populations, the death of career and the elusiveness of adulthood, and post-work visions and global political alternatives, to understand how different futures of work can be imagined starting from this uneven and contested present.

In English

14:00 Introduction
by Alina-Sandra Cucu and Ruth Ramsden-Karelse

14:15 Hadas Weiss
Workers to Capitalists:
Repositioning Berlin’s Middle Class

15:15 Prem Kumar Rajaram
The Coloniality of Labour

16:15 Coffee Break

16.45 Ana Cecilia Dinerstein (online)
Weaving Concrete Utopias with the Social Reproduction of Life

17.45 Roundtable

18:45 Coffee Break

19:30 Keynote Lecture by Biao Xiang
Capitalism as Battles over Vital Forces


Hadas Weiss
Prem Kumar Rajaram
Ana Cecilia Dinerstein (online)
Keynote lecture by Biao Xiang

Organized by

Alina-Sandra Cucu and Ruth Ramsden-Karelse

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Image credit: © Tomas Castelazo, / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

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